The African Union (AU) and the United Nations are proposing 44% and 30% reductions in their troop and police presence in Sudan’s Darfur region as a step towards an eventual exit, a senior UN peacekeeping official told the Security Council.
“The reconfiguration of UNAMID is an important milestone towards completion of its mandate,” Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El-Ghassim Wane said updating the 15-nation Council on recommended changes to the Mission.
The AU/UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur, referred to by its acronym UNAMID, was formally established by the Security Council on July 31, 2007 through the adoption of resolution 1769.
Wane said the level of armed hostilities remained significantly lower than in previous years, noting a successful military campaign by government reduced the rebellion to a small presence in Western Jebel Marra and the number of inter-communal security incidents has decreased. Progress has also been made on the political front, he added.
Yet, given that 2.7 million people remain internally displaced, a number of crucial grievances at the origin of the conflict and key issues related to its aftermath still needed to be addressed, he said.
These circumstances require UNAMID to adjust to new realities, Wane said, explaining the proposal is two-pronged combining peacebuilding and peacekeeping tasks. Most parts of Darfur require a more peacebuilding-oriented approach, while in and around the Jebel Marra the mission would focus on traditional peacekeeping tasks.
The reconfiguration would bring the troop ceiling down to eight battalions from the current 16 or to 8,736 troops and the police ceiling down to 2,360 from 3,403. It would also include closure of 11 team sites, opening of a temporary operating base in the Jebel Marra and withdrawal of the military from another seven team sites.
Wane said the political process should focus on implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, now incorporated in the Constitution and contains useful provisions to address underlying causes of conflict and create “peace dividends” for the population in Darfur.
Protection of civilian activities in the greater Jebel Marra area would revolve around physical protection and emergency relief, while in the rest of the Darfur states it will focus on livelihood issues and rule of law capacities.
On the issue of inter-communal conflict, UNAMID should prioritise those with the potential to cause the highest number of causalities and derail national political processes.
Wane said the successful reconfiguration of UNAMID required the full support and co-operation of the Sudan government and its institutions, including to ensure there is no “security vacuum” in areas vacated by UNAMID.